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China says intercepting US surveillance plane was ‘legal and necessary’

China’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that its pilots actions were legal, necessary and professional after two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea at the weekend.

The ministry said in a statement that the US plane threatened China’s national security, and urged the United States to immediately cease such military activities.

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea at the weekend, with one jet coming within about 300 feet (91 metres) of the American aircraft, US officials said on Monday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close enough to the US EP-3 plane on Sunday to cause the American aircraft to change direction.

One of the officials said the Chinese jet was armed and the interception happened 80 nautical miles (148 km) from the Chinese city of Qingdao.

The Pentagon said the encounter between the aircraft was unsafe, but added that the vast majority of interactions were safe.

Chinese defence ministry said the actions of its pilots were “legal, necessary and professional” and performed “in accordance with the law and the rules”.

“Close-in reconnaissance by US aircraft threatens China’s national security, harms Sino-US maritime and air military safety, endangers the personal safety of both sides’ pilots and is the root cause of unexpected incidents,” it said.

The United States should immediately stop these military activities, which are unsafe, unprofessional and unfriendly, it added.

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